ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT
Seven decades worth of Urquhart's
Exhibit: Power of Invention: Drawings from Seven Decades
Artist: Tony Urquhart
Location: Museum London
Gazette file photo
A LOT OF PEOPLE, DOING A LOT OF... STUFF. The art of
Urquhart is currently on display at Museum London.
For those who imagine becoming an accomplished artist requires
an easel and a pallet of oil-based paint, the exhibit Power
of Invention: Drawings from Seven Decades by Tony Urquhart
Urquhart's works are mainly comprised of black ink on paper,
giving the exhibit a cold and colourless feel. Additionally,
a large majority of the pieces are on sketchpad-size paper,
so a great deal of patience is required in order to view the
seven decades worth of work. However, the attention to detail,
even on the smaller drafts, is fascinating.
His drawings are a true testament to technicality. In his "Najac" series,
for example, all pieces contain the same object: an arboretum
filled with hundreds of vines and plants. The trick is that
each installment has a different perspective, which speaks
highly of Urquhart's patience; to draw one of these would be
a task in itself, but he has managed to create eight of them
within the span of one year.
The "Najac" series, like many others, juxtaposes nature with
cages to comment on man's attempt to contain nature. It would
appear as though Urquhart, however, is stating that man's efforts
cannot succeed. In the colourful "Tree and Ladder," for instance,
the ladder cannot reach the top of the tree; an obvious comment
on man's inability to reach the apex of nature.
He also conveys the idea of nature in decay. This is shown
quite clearly in the work "Reclining Dog," which depicts an
outstretched, dead dog whose lower half fades - or decays -
into the canvas. This was probably the most shocking, though
quite subtle, piece in the exhibit.
Curator Terrence Heath arranged the exhibit in chronological
order so shifts in themes can be seen. A colour photocopy of
Urquhart's "Idea Book" is provided to give the viewer insight
into the creative process of an artist. Random pages of notes,
partial sketches and colour photographs of everyday objects
form the bulk of the book, but even a quick flip provides an
overwhelming sense of how difficult it must be to organize
these thoughts into single object drawings.
Overall, his work is both simplistic and complex. It's simplistic
because often there is only one object with an empty, pale
background; but on close inspection the object is drawn to
the finest detail, with many fine and concise strokes. It is
clearly, as Heath states, a "major work in draughtsmanship
in Canada," but not for the casual audience of art. For those
looking for large, colourful, Jackson Pollock-like paintings,
Power of Invention will not be very satisfying.
Power of Invention will be on display at the Ivey North and
Centre Galleries in Museum London until Nov. 8.